Got back June 25th, 3 days to the day when I left. It was a 17 hour flight in total from Santiago to Dallas, with layovers in Panama City and Montego Bay. This was after spending 8 hours at the Santiago airport.
People have been asking me which was my favorite place in South America and I usually tell them the Galapagos Islands. But that is like asking “What is your favorite trait of your loved one?” You can always name one but you usually love that person as a whole, the good and the bad. In the same way, I loved South America as a whole. I didn’t love just one spot, I loved the entire journey and continent.
“Bohemian” is the exact word to describe Valparaiso. While Santiago is like someone who works 8-5 in a cubicle, goes home, makes dinner, watches TV, goes to sleep, and occasionally goes out for drinks with friends on a Saturday night, Valparaiso is like a heavily tattooed rock star who lives on nothing but drugs, booze, women, and goes to the occasional rehab session.
If you’re a wine person, then you have to visit Mendoza, Argentina’s wine capital and one of the top producers of wine in the world. I remember having the chance to visit the South African wine country but decided not to as I wasn’t a wine drinker but Mendoza was between Buenos Aires and Santiago so it was a good way to break down my trip. So I took the 13 hour overnight bus filled with noisy American exchange students who were also going to Mendoza for a 3-day weekend.
I think vineyards look best when the sun’s out and when the grapes are still on their vines, full and ripe, ready to be harvested. This happens in March so no surprise when our tour group arrived at the wineries, all the trees were bare, having being harvested long ago and it being the middle of winter now.
In Peru, one could look out the plane window and see the endless stretch of the Andes mountain range. In the Amazon, it was the endless stretch of rainforest. It was flood season and it was evident from above. River houses dotted the scenery. The canopy was an unbelievable sight. It’s hard to believe that there is a city in the middle of it all. But there, 2 million people live, World Cup matches are going to be played, and people are flying in for tours of the Amazon.
As part of my time in Cusco (where I stayed a few days before going to Ollantaytambo, then Machu Picchu, then back to Cusco), I took an all-day tour called “The Sacred Valley Tour” and also a chocolate-making class. Here are pictures: